The Magazine

Keeping Up with Joe

Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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What would Miss Manners say about Russian president Vladimir Putin? No, not about his habit of going shirtless in public. It seems that Putin has developed the habit of showing up late for important meetings, and keeping foreign dignitaries waiting. On a recent visit to South Korea, where proper etiquette is of paramount importance, the Russian leader was a half-hour late for a meeting with President Park Geun-hye. (To be fair, he may just have been stuck in Seoul’s abominable traffic.) That came on the heels of a major snub of our own secretary of state John Kerry; after Kerry had traveled all the way to Moscow to discuss the Syrian crisis with Putin this spring, the Russian president kept Kerry waiting for three hours in the Kremlin. And just last week, Putin was 50 minutes late for an audience with the pope in Rome.

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The Scrapbook isn’t one to make overheated comparisons, but this calls to mind no one so much as Stalin, who also displayed his contempt for others by keeping them waiting. Of course, Putin is a mere piker compared with Old Joe: In 1949-50, Mao Zedong, freshly victorious in the Chinese civil war, traveled to Moscow to meet the Soviet dictator. There, Stalin kept Mao waiting for two months between meetings. Perhaps that’s something that Putin can aspire to.

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